Drilling for gas in Crete to start earlier

ExxonMobil assures government it is not concerned by Turkey’s disputing of energy rights

Drilling for gas in Crete to start earlier

US energy giant ExxonMobil, which has partnered with Greece’s HELLENiQ Energy (formerly Hellenic Petroleum) in searching for natural gas and oil west and southwest of the Aegean island of Crete, not only is unconcerned about Turkish aggressive rhetoric against Greece but plans to accelerate its timeline for exploratory drilling by a year, Kathimerini understands.

The areas ceded for exploratory research to the Greek-American consortium, especially the one southwest of Crete, clash with Libyan claims of maritime sovereignty, backed by Turkey, and enshrined in a 2019 memorandum between Ankara and the Tripoli-based Libyan government, which does not control the whole of the country.

Libya and Turkey do not share maritime borders; Egypt and Greece stand in the way. Yet, they claim to do so, based on Turkey’s claim, not shared internationally, that islands, such as Crete, do not possess a continental shelf. The widely decried memorandum was followed last year by an agreement by the same parties allowing Turkey’s state petroleum company exploration rights on Libyan soil and seas.

ExxonMobil’s assurances were given by the company’s vice president responsible for the MENA/Eastern Mediterranean regions and international intergovernmental relations, Rochdi Younsi, to Environment and Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas and Aristophanes Stefatos, CEO of Hellenic Hydrocarbons and Energy Resources Management Company (HEREMA) on the sidelines of a New York business conference (Capital Link) in early December.

ExxonMobil plans to start exploratory drilling in the 40,000 square kilometer area in 2024-25 instead of the initially planned 2025-2026. The company has leased a specialized seismic research vessel, Sanco Swift, from Norwegian firm PGS. The ship began collecting two-dimensional seismic data off Crete in November and plans to finish this early exploratory activity by February. If necessary, three-dimensional data will also be collected.

In any case, data assessment and a decision on whether there are enough indications of significant gas reserves to justify exploratory drilling will be taken in 2024.

HEREMA’s Stefatos told Kathimerini that an annual oil congress that will be held in Egypt in February will provide a forum for gauging the interest of other investors.

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